Posted: Thursday, 16 May 2019 @ 11:29
IPW A trusted Guardian, who took responsibility for her friends’ child following their untimely death, has been jailed for carelessly spending huge amounts of her ward’s inheritance.
Melaney Watford, 39, made the selfless decision to become the Guardian for a young teenage boy after he was orphaned in 2015. However, in addition to taking responsibility for the child, she was also responsible for the boy’s inheritance.
Unfortunately, Watford had frittered away between £30,000 and £60,000 of the boy’s £125,000 cash inheritance by treating the money as a family pot as opposed to the boy’s property that should have been protected until he turned 18.
It was alleged that the money was spent on regular takeaways with daily amounts of up to £250 being withdrawn on a regular basis.
Despite claiming that the money was spent on unavoidable costs needed to maintain the boy’s property he was set to inherit, the court found that the misappropriation was serious enough to merit a custodial sentence.
Watford was sentenced to three years and two months in prison after pleading guilty to one case of fraud by abuse of position.
The estate she was trusted to protect was considerably diminished because of her actions and her limited means made it impossible to return the money she benefited from.
The defence claimed throughout the case that Ms Watford was poorly educated and innocently viewed the money as a pot that could be used to benefit the whole family. It was argued that the money was never spent solely on herself, apart from an unavoidable trip to the dentist.
If Watford was informed about the inheritance that had been placed in her care, she had failed to adequately understand the terms of the agreement. Whilst she was aware that the money was intended for her ward to help with his future, it was, at least to some extent, spent on him. These actions were naïve rather than conniving.
When people, like Ms Watford, are unexpectedly catapulted into a position of trust without adequate training or understanding, it is not surprising that the defendant was unable to complete her role with complete integrity.
If the guardian had been offered adequate training on her responsibilities, or if the parents had placed the estate into a relevant trust until their son was of a mature enough age to inherit, this incident could have been avoided.
This case highlights the importance of providing clear, bespoke advice to each client.
The Willwriting Academy Ltd will be running a comprehensive one-day Introduction to Will Trusts on Tuesday, June 25 at the Ibis Styles Hotel in Birmingham.
The course will give delegates a confident understanding of trusts, explain the purpose of creating a trust for a client, the various types of trust, the powers of trustees, the rights of the beneficiaries and how to wind up a trust once it is no longer needed.
As families become increasingly complex, gaining an understanding of the various types of trusts and how they could best benefit the individual circumstances of each client is a really important skill that all practitioners will need to develop.